Meerkat Periscope Social Media

"This was where we always knew we were going" - Meerkat's Sima Sistani on how brands are using the app's new Cameo feature

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By Minda Smiley | Reporter

July 14, 2015 | 7 min read

Last week, Meerkat unveiled its ‘Cameo’ feature which the company claimed was its biggest addition to the app since launching.

The new tool allows broadcasters of streams to invite viewers to take over their stream for up to one minute.

The app also announced that users could sign up to Meerkat without a Twitter account and also connect the app to their Facebook profile.

Companies including TMZ, The Weather Channel, and MasterCard helped kick off Cameo’s launch.

The Drum caught up with Sima Sistani, vice president of media at Meerkat, to find out how brands were able top best utilize the new feature and how the app is setting itself apart from other live video platforms.

What possibilities does the new feature offer for brands?

I love Cameo. It is a reflection of our original vision to build an engagement tool that’s easy and fun and allows for more meaningful experiences. That obviously makes a ton of sense for brands when it comes to various goals for driving engagement and cross promotion, as well everyday users who want to have interesting shared experiences like scheduling a live book club discussion where one person is reading passages and another person can comment from somewhere else across the world. Or users can have DIY discussions around gardening or knitting and people will be able to ask and answer questions in real time. And obviously there are the celebrities having conversations with fans. Really what is special about it is the shared experiences. We’ve already seen people cameoing happen where it’s sunrise for one person and cameoing from people where it’s sunset.

With the specific feature we have several brands who are already engaged and launching with us, which include The Weather Channel, TMZ, Fox, Above Average, MasterCard, and YouTube’s Michelle Phan. They’re all doing different things. The Weather Channel had a guy who was in the studio reporting the weather and he was cameoing to various reporters in different locations. So he sent the stream to somebody in London and then took it back and then sent it to somebody in Caracas.

It’s so flexible and what is exciting about it is it is new and we can’t even really begin to imagine all of the different ways people will use the new medium for self-expression and connection.

How has Meerkat coped with the initial response to it, which has been far larger than expected?

Cope may be the wrong word. We’re excited about it. This was where we always knew we were going. We’ve said from the beginning that Meerkat is live participation and this is finally the most powerful way for us to showcase what we mean by that. The app itself has been so much more from the beginning than a utility for livestreaming for mobile. We take it very seriously that the audience is part of the content so there are nuances that existed in the app, like the fact that the comments don’t disappear or the fact that you can send emojis and it actually turns your profile photo over to that emoji so you can express how you’re feeling about the stream in so many different ways.

There have been all of these things in the app already but with this feature we’re really putting a stake in the ground. I think it is much easier for consumers to really understand what we mean by live participation by adding the deeper layer to a medium that to be honest could be at the risk of banality. What’s so great is, it’s hard to go live, and what this feature does is make it easier for people because you can cameo in various points of view. Those people who are interested in testing the waters can do it and take that chance with only 60 seconds. That’s a lot easier for people to digest.

Twitter’s reaction must have been a setback. How has it affected your urgency to move to other platforms?

I feel like we’re so beyond that at this point. There are plenty of solutions for replaying captured moments but not many products build a technology set to scale live moments to millions at once. That’s what we’re about. I think that you’re asking particularly about the Facebook integration and that’s a move we would have made either way. Our goal is to be able to give people the opportunity to go live everywhere so that’s not just Twitter but also Facebook. We’re focused on building the best live-sharing experience possible.

How do you openly differentiate yourself from Periscope?

Meerkat competes to build the best product to engage and share the most meaningful live experiences so we compete against for the most precious thing, which is time. Whether its Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Periscope, there are unending possible tools and services to use but what we’re focused on is building the best live participation experience. There will be many other products that have live video. But we’ve designed Meerkat based on what we know about how people want to engage and we’re the only independent platform that gives users the ability to go live everywhere. I think that’s why this Cameo feature is so important because it really showcases that Meerkat was built to be a way for people to instantly connect and participate with each other around shared experiences and discussions.

Can you give us any update on user numbers?

We’ve always been focused on growth. Without getting too specific our numbers are really great and they’re growing. What I can tell you is that we continue to double on a monthly basis since we’ve launched and we’re really pleased with the growth. It’s exceeding our expectations.

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